Marketing isn’t as simple as it used to be. A decade or so ago all you had to do was put together an advertising plan, do a few direct mail pieces, and have your publicist put out a regular series of press releases. Piece of cake right? Today, it’s a lot more complex. In addition to those traditional marketing activities, you have to do whatever it takes to market your company or your products online. In fact, for many businesses web marketing drives more business than does traditional marketing; it’s certainly a different (and in some ways, more effective) way of communicating with current and potential customers.

Online Network Marketing Can Be Scary

For a traditional marketer, the whole online thing can be a little daunting. I mean, there’s just so many things to deal with-search engines, email, blogs, social networks, you name it. And that’s before you get into the whole mobile marketing thing, which adds another layer of complexity. It’s not just the number of activities, either. Web marketing is…well, it’s different from traditional marketing. Marketing in print and over the air is pretty much a mass market, broadcast way of talking to your customers.

Online, there’s a lot of narrowcasting, focused communication to distinct customer groups. In some instances, it’s not even a one-way communication; when you’re talking Facebook and MySpace and the like, your customers get to talk back to you. That may be nice in theory, but it’s way different from what you’re used to out there in the physical world. What do you need to know to market online? How do you develop an effective web marketing strategy? Which activities do you need to focus on, and how do you do what you need to do? And what about Twitter and Facebook, and the iPhone and all the new media that keep popping up? Whether you’re new to this web marketing thing or just trying to keep your head above water, you need a little help. In fact, you might need a lot of help. Don’t be ashamed of that.

What You Need to Know Before You Do Online Network Marketing

Before you do web marketing, you have to know traditional marketing because when it comes right down to it, web marketing is just traditional marketing done online. Or is it? It’s important to know what you’re doing before you go out and do it. So let’s take a few moments and examine just what this thing called “marketing” really is. (Yeah, I know that all you marketing majors learned this back in business school, but not everyone reading this article went to b-school-and even those of us who did don’t always remember things properly-so bear with me.)

The American Marketing Association (AMA) is as good a source as any to define the term “marketing,” which it does as follows: Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. That’s a mouthful, to be sure; to me, it sounds like a politically correct definition assembled by committee. It covers all the bases but is less than concise; it really doesn’t get down to the real-world core of what marketing is.

Knowing that web marketing is just traditional marketing done online, what skills do you need to do your online marketing? Well, the most important thing you need to know is that marketing online requires the same basic skills you use for traditional marketing. Marketing is marketing, after all, and key marketing skills are necessary no matter what type of marketing you’re doing. So don’t worry-all that stuff you learned in b-school still applies.

That said there are some skills that are more necessary than others when marketing online. And there are some new skills you need to master because what you do online differs somewhat from what you do in traditional media. So let’s look at those marketing skills most important to web marketers.

Network Marketing Online Can Be Confusing Unless You Have the Tools

Fortunately, there’s a lot of research available online. That is, it’s fairly easy to track what people do online; website analytics help you track what all the visitors to a given website do, even if they can’t supply the why. A few clicks of the mouse and you can find out what sites drove people to your website, how long they stayed on your site, what pages they were on when they left, and so forth. That’s a lot of built-in data that would be almost impossible to research in the real world outside of the Web.

You need this research-and much, much more-to make intelligent decisions about things such as the design of your website or the construction of your online advertising program. Of course, you also need research for all the traditional reasons-to determine what types of products to sell how to package and present those products, what prices to set, and the like. To all our benefit, even traditional research gets easier online. That is, you can use Google and other search tools to find information that might not otherwise be easy to find.

You’d be surprised how much raw data is available somewhere on the Internet if you just know where and how to look for it. The Internet is a researcher’s dream-which is also good for any marketer. With all this raw data available, however, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers. That’s where analytical research skills come in. You need to be able to sort the wheat from the considerable chaff and determine what all those numbers really mean. You also need to be able to determine when raw numbers aren’t enough-that is, when you need to go beyond the numbers into the whys and wherefores of customer behavior. Even with all the data available on the Internet, there’s still no substitute for getting inside the minds of your customers- which is the ultimate research skill you can possess.